Alzheimers: Dementia explosion forecast in UK by 2040 due to obesity levels

1.7m Brits are expected to be living with dementia by 2040 - more than double today's levels. (Picture: Adobe Stock)1.7m Brits are expected to be living with dementia by 2040 - more than double today's levels. (Picture: Adobe Stock)
1.7m Brits are expected to be living with dementia by 2040 - more than double today's levels. (Picture: Adobe Stock)
It's more than twice the number of people living with dementia in the UK today.

Far more people will have dementia in the UK by 2040 than first thought, according to new research.

A study conducted by University College London (UCL) suggests that 1.7m Brits will have dementia within the next 17 years - 40 per cent more than initially forecast. These figures come despite a dip in case levels over the past few years. The study also suggests that an "epidemic" of obesity and Type 2 diabetes could be contributing to these figures.

Lead author Dr Yuntao Chen, from the UCL Institute of Epidemiology and Health Care, said: “It is shocking to think that the number of people living with dementia by 2040 may be up to 70 per cent higher than if dementia incidence had continued to decline. Not only will this have a devastating effect on the lives of those involved but it will also put a considerably larger burden on health and social care than current forecasts predict. Continued monitoring of the incidence trend will be crucial in shaping social care policy.”

For the study, experts analysed nine sets of data from people over the age of 50 and living in private households in England between 2002 and 2019, from the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing (ELSA). They found that the dementia incidence rate decreased by 29 per cent between 2002 and 2008 but rose a quarter between 2008 and 2016. Although an increase in dementia cases has often been put down to an ageing population, the researchers also found that the rate of people developing dementia in older age groups is also rising.

Principal investigator Professor Eric Brunner, from the UCL Institute of Epidemiology and Health Care, said: “Our research has exposed that dementia is likely to be a more urgent policy problem than previously recognised – even if the current trend continues for just a few years. We have found that not only is the ageing population a major driver of the trend in England and Wales but also the number of people developing dementia within older age groups is increasing.

“We don’t know how long this pattern will continue but the UK needs to be prepared so we can ensure that everyone affected, whatever their financial circumstances, is able to access the help and support that they need.”

Hilary Evans, chief executive at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said the research “highlights the enormous threat dementia poses” for the public and the healthcare workforce.

“With more people expected to be living with dementia in the future, healthcare decision-makers need to wake up and put steps in place to radically improve both how the condition is diagnosed and invest in capacity to do so,” she added.

“Too many people continue to experience unacceptable delays, and waiting times frequently fall short of the government’s 67 per cent target in many regions. This is only going to get worse unless decisive government steps are taken to confront this crisis.”

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